A Great Day for German-US Relations
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben – born in Prussia - was one of the great heroes in the American War of Independence. George Washington made him the first Inspector General of the new armed forces.
The United States honors Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben's contribution to the victory by holding the annual “von Steuben Parade” in New York on September 17 – the birthday of the general. His statue can be seen in Washington D.C.'s Lafayette Square, close to the White House.
It is no coincidence that the present Inspector General in the Pentagon, Joseph Schmitz, drew a comparison between himself and General von Steuben because of his German roots. He studied the life of General von Steuben and stays in contact with the noble family. He discovered that in 1911, the US Congress presented the German Emperor a copy of the von Steuben statue that was destroyed during WWII. In 1994, another copy of the statue was built.
Joseph Schmitz and the von Steuben family developed the idea of holding an official rededication ceremony for the statue that took place in Potsdam – the hometown of the German kings and emperors –on April 30, 2005. Approximately 200 high-ranking representatives from all walks of life attended this solemn ceremony. Guest of Honor was His Royal Highness, Georg Friedrich Prinz von Preussen – head of the Prussian House of Kings. Officials from Brandenburg, the city of Potsdam, the American Embassy in Berlin and the American Armed Forces gathered with the von Steuben family.
In the tradition of the family, an American von Steuben is again Inspector General of the US National Guard in Washington D.C. The von Steuben family – with an American and a German part – symbolizes the close relations between the two countries – from the very beginning.
This event should remind us of the common roots, common values and common objectives that are still more numerous and important than the actual differences. One of the highlights of the ceremony was the speech given by Henning-Hubertus von Steuben.
Remarks by Henning-Hubertus Baron von Steuben, President of the Steuben Family Association at the Steuben rededication ceremony in Potsdam, April 30, 2005
Your Royal Highness, Excellencies, Honored Guests,
Prussia, Steuben and the United States are linked by history, the foundations of a community of values and strengthened by a friendship between peoples that has lasted for decades. Today we reaffirm this friendship by honoring a man who symbolizes German-American friendship more than nearly anyone else: Maj.Gen. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben.
This is a touching moment for those of us in the Steuben family. Not only because the man who bore our family's name contributed to writing a piece of history. Not only because of the service he has contributed to this cause - of which so much has already been written and said. But also because this event is taking place in Potsdam. Potsdam is a city whose Prussian heritage has so visibly suffered because of the political post-war order - and also Steuben as a so-called "typical representative of Prussian militarism" was passed over in silence for a long time. It was not until the dedication of his memorial in 1994 that he was also rehabilitated again in Potsdam: He was officially recognized as a democratic military reformer who literally merged Prussian virtues with the independent spirit of America in "unbeatable" unity. The bronze tablet unveiled at his memorial today is therefore not only an informal reference, but it is also an appreciation of this historic achievement.
The Steuben family is also linked to the city of Potsdam in many other ways. Numerous officers of the Steuben family served here, many of them having held prominent positions. One example is Maj. Gen. Anton von Steuben, former director of the great military orphanage. Or Infantry General Cuno von Steuben, director of the Prussian War College in Berlin. Both of these men were in Yorktown, Virginia in 1881 as official representatives of Prussia to celebrate the centennial of the Battle of Yorktown, the most important battle of all in the American Revolutionary War. They attended the festivities along with another Steuben family member who was a General Staff Officer and had a son that - out of enthusiasm for the Steuben family - motivated US Secretary of State James Blaine to become a godparent of the child.
The close relationship of the Steubens to the United States has a long tradition. As a sign of the historic relationship between the von Steuben family and the American people, the Steuben family's heraldic motto "sub tutela altissimi semper" (constantly under the protection of the Almighty) was incorporated into the official seal of the Inspector General of the US Department of Defense on September 11, 2002 - exactly one year after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that took the lives of more than 3,000 people.
Steuben and the United States - what was then the struggle for freedom has today become the war against terrorism. Due to the new threats throughout the world, trustful transatlantic relations have become more necessary than ever before. Between partners that are bound to each other through a common set of basic beliefs as well as historical and cultural roots, speechlessness cannot be permitted to replace dialog. Mutual goals always require mutual strategies. It is precisely in difficult times that thinking back on history can also be a signal for the future.
If memorials build bridges between the past and the future, then the rededication of this monument is a symbolic act for Germans and Americans in equal measure. Standing up for freedom in dignity and justice - and the commitment to fight together for these values as the cornerstone of a democratic social order.
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was and is an example of this.
May I express my best wishes for a successful event. Thank you!